Tag Archives: New Guinea

Excerpt from “Further Adventures of a New Guinea Resident Magistrate” by Captain C. A. W. Monckton ~~Rain-makers~~

Sorcery among New Guinea natives may be divided into two kinds: the sorcerer practising the first kind belongs to a class of wicked, malevolent assassins, doing evil for the sake of evil; he is prepared to perform his devilry, administer poison, or commit any crime for any person paying him to do so. This class of sorcerer does not pretend to perform anything but black magic, or to work anything but harm; and the shadow of the fear of the brute is over the whole tribal life. Sorcerers practising the second kind are men who make use of a benevolent and kindly magic for good only. These pretend to possess powers of rain-making, wind or fish-bringing, bone-setting, the charming away of sickness, or charming the spot upon which a garden is to be made to render it productive. They understand massage to a certain extent, and are usually highly respected and estimable members of the community to which they belong; and to interfere with this second class in the practice of their arts, would be not only cruelly unjust but decidedly unwise.
Once I had a frantic row with a Missionary Society over a member of the class of rain-makers. This old fellow I knew to be an eminently respectable old gentleman, and famed for many miles as a rain-maker; in fact, I had more than a suspicion that upon occasions my own police had paid for his services in connection with the Station garden. Well, to my amazement, I one day received a complaint from a European missionary, that the old fellow was practising sorcery and levying blackmail. I knew the charge to be all nonsense, and my village constables laughed at it; in fact, they regarded the story in much the same light as a London bobby would a tale to the effect that the Archbishop of Canterbury was running a sly grog shop in Wapping; but missionaries always made such a noise that I had to investigate. I found that there had been a drought in a Mission village, miles away from where the old boy lived, and the natives’ gardens were perishing: the local rain-makers tried their hands, but with no result; the missionary turned on prayers for rain, no result; then the people got desperate, and decided that the services of my estimable friend must be engaged. Accordingly, to the wrath of the missionary, they collected pigs and a varied assortment of New Guinea valuables, and sent them with a deputation to beg him to save their gardens. He accepted the gifts, and oracularly replied to his petitioners, “When the southeast wind stops, the rain will come.” They went off home satisfied; as a matter of fact, the wind had dropped before they got back and the welcome rain set in. Having ascertained the facts, I of course refused to interfere with the rain-maker; whereupon the missionary complained to Headquarters that the R M. was undermining the work of the Mission by encouraging sorcery, and I was called upon for the usual report. I reported that my time was already so fully occupied that I had none to spare in “attending to harmless disputes due to the professional jealousy of rival rain-makers.” The missionary choked with outraged and offended pride at being put on the same plane as a native rain-maker, and Muzzy squeaked about “contemptuous levity” in official correspondence.


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Excerpt from “Record of Service” by Bruce Robinson ~~R.A.P.~~

The following event occurred during the Sanananda campaign in Papua New Guinea around December 1942.

On the morning of our first action I left most of my gear at our overnight camp, and set up a temporary R.A.P. at one of the near corners of the oblong, and was soon kept busy dealing with incoming casualties. Later on the scene of battle changed, and I moved with my staff to join forces with Captain Jim Fotheringham, who was the R.M.O. of the other battalion that was in action with us, and we occupied a joint R.A.P. just inside the jungle beside the road. We were soon very busy, as the casualties were numerous by now. In fact, “Dum” Norris, the senior medical officer of the division, who had come up and was lending a hand, said he had never seen a busier R.A.P. in this war, or the last.
In jungle warfare there is no real front line as in more orthodox wars, and the scene of battle fluctuated throughout the day. We would hear firing on our left, and this would die down. Then it would break out to the right, and next it would be close alongside us, wherever, in fact, an enemy machine-gun post or sniper was found by our lads. On one occasion during the mid-afternoon we heard firing close at hand, and we were disturbed to see some of our green-clad boys falling back through the trees towards us, and eventually through us and past us. “Look out, there are the Japs,” cried one of my boys, pointing to shadowy figures in the undergrowth across the clearing. We had no arms, so we jumped into nearby holes. There were four of us in mine as tightly packed as on a half-past-five city bus. Lead was flying over our heads from both directions. I thought, “This is a fine way to end my military career; some blasted Jap will throw a grenade into our hole, and then good-bye.”
However, our boys rallied and held their ground, and the firing died down in a few minutes, so I thought I would crawl out and try the air, if only to get some weapon and my tin hat which I had taken off when we were busy. Nothing happened when I emerged, so I called my boys and we hastily collected our gear and made an orderly, if rapid, withdrawal. Jim Fotheringham and his boys appeared later, having had a similar experience, and together we selected a new combined R.A.P. site a couple of hundred yards farther back – our fourth for the day. This one was to become my permanent home during the next few weeks, though Jim Fotheringham had several other moves. By this time we had passed the busiest part of the day, but a trickle of casualties kept arriving all through the evening and night.

*R.A.P. – Regimental Aid Post
*R.M.O. – Regimental Medical Officer

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Excerpt from “War Cameraman – The Story of Damien Parer” by Neil McDonald ~~Wau~~

picture-warcameraman-mcdonaldBy February 1942 it was clear Australia itself was in peril. The decision that they were to return to Australia must have been a relief to Parer. His parents and his eldest sister, Doreen Owen, were in New Guinea which was likely to come under direct attack from the Japanese.



While the two correspondents rested in Wau, Parer located his parents’ hotel and his brother-in-law’s house. Both had been hurriedly abandoned at the first news of the Japanese invasion.

The three fine billiard tables were all that was left of Dad’s hotel . . . I walked into the home where Dor [Doreen Owen] and Jock were living and picked up some cloth animals – now sorely battered – they were some I had sent them from Palestine last year – also the big leather cushion affair I had sent mother from the Mussky bazaar in Cairo! Bending down and opening a camphor wood box I found an envelope addressed to me! Mother had written, made a mistake in the spelling and put it aside – then the family album – photos of all of us – some I took myself. What a strange war it seemed to me. From the far sands of Egypt – I had come home to see my own people’s homes struck by the enemy.

Damien was deeply moved by this experience. For the first time, he was meeting people who had known his family in New Guinea and seeing places he only read about previously. He incorporated what he felt in a re-enacted sequence showing Bob Nesbitt of the NGVR returning to his bomb-shattered home in Wau. ‘CU [close up] He bends down and picks up a cloth animal – a symbol of the happy life of peace time and he looks over to photos on the wall of wife and children’. The cloth animals and the pictures were the same ones Parer had found in his sister’s abandoned house. He described this sequence as ‘Australians are here fighting right in their own homes.’


Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47


Camera pans to photographs on the wall “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Camera pans to photographs on the wall
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

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Excerpt from “Throwim Way Leg” by Tim Flannery ~~Araucaria Grove~~

picture-ThrowimWayLeg-FlanneryA small cluster of huts lies near the place where the turn-off to Telefolip leaves the main track. I inquired after Dan at one of these, and an old man led me down the side path through long kunai grass. Soon, we dropped off the plateau into a steep gully, and the environment suddenly changed. We were walking through a grove of magnificent Araucaria trees. Around the edge of the grove they were saplings but, further in, the pines were soaring giants, mist swirling through their crowns. Their straight, clean boles carried patches of bright green moss, which contrasted with their walnut-coloured bark. At one point the path dipped under the trunk of a fallen giant, giving me chance to measure myself against the diameter of one of these magnificent trees. It was about a metre thick.
The most striking thing about the grove was the quality of the sound. It seemed as if, in an instant, we had left the noisy, muddy world of drizzle and people and entered a large, open-air cathedral. The villages with their slippery paths and clamour of pigs and children were left behind. Even the sound of the rain had vanished – high above the drizzle was caught in the canopy. One could not feel or hear it below. The path itself had also become more pleasant, for it now passed over a soft carpet of leaves and moss, muffling our footfalls.
Suddenly, a bird flitted between the lower branches of one of the Araucarias. I held my breath as I recognised it as a male Splendid Astrapia (Astrapia splendidissima). With their long tails and curved beaks, these magnificent birds of paradise are imposing creatures. From a distance they appear to be all black, but when viewed more closely you can see the iridescent patches on their chest and head, which are beautiful beyond description. Their glorious tail plumes are highly valued everywhere. As a result, they are avidly hunted and are usually shy. I looked at my companion for signs of interest in the bird. I was astounded that he took almost no notice of it as it flitted about in the branches just above his head. He simply trudged by, head down, along the path.
Too soon light showed through the trees ahead of us, signalling the end of the Araucaria grove. We came to a fence, and before us stood the wall of a building the likes of which I had never seen before in New Guinea. It was a barn-like structure about as tall as a two-storey house, and as we walked around to the front of it I could see that the only egress lay via a tiny oval door halfway up its front wall.
Stretched out before this remarkable structure lay the village of Telefolip. It consisted of a dozen or so houses, arranged in two rows facing a path leading to the barn-like building. The houses all stood on pedestals of soil about a metre high. The pedestals had been created, apparently, by the soil between and around them being worn away by countless generations of feet. This never happens in most of New Guinea because the village site changes regularly.
What struck me most about Telefolip was that everything was traditional. Not a nail or iron tool, not a plastic bag or piece of nylon rope gave any hint that this village belonged to the end of the twentieth century.
Dan Jorgensen was sitting in one of the huts, surrounded by senior Telefol men. He was in deep discussion with them, but he welcomed me warmly. I was breathless with the excitement of seeing a bird of paradise at such close range, and blurted out my tale of the sighting.
But that particular bird, it seemed, had been displaying for several weeks now in the sacred grove.
The grove of Araucaria trees, Dan explained, belongs to Afek, the ancestress of the Telefol. The large building at the end of the sacred grove was her cult house, where young Telefol men are taken so that the secrets of the ancestress can be passed onto them. No woman is ever allowed to enter it. Indeed, no woman is allowed even to enter the sacred grove of Araucaria trees through which I had just passed. Instead, they had to take a steep, muddy path that passed into the village via another route.
Dan explained that literally everything about the grove was sacred. Not a single leaf, not even an annoying mosquito, could be disturbed in it. Over generations the birds had learned about this, and even normally shy creatures such as the birds of paradise sometimes display fearlessly within easy reach of an arrow. Open displays by valuable birds such as the Splendid Astrapia chagrin the Telefol – which explained the glum look on the face of my guide. It must be a bit like seeing a jewel on the ground, but not being allowed to pick it up.




Splendid Astrapia

Splendid Astrapia

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Excerpt from “ANGAU One Man Law” by Clarrie James ~Pourri Pourri~~

Clarrie James volunteered for the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit and operated as a patrol officer during World War II.

picture-ANGAU-JamesI suspect that the slaying of a villager by Karai had its sequel in sorcery involving my three ‘cook’ boys. In Australia with the Aborigines it’s ‘pointing the bone’. In New Guinea with the natives it’s ‘pourri pourri’.
The New Guinean view of death is different from that of the European. With our scientific knowledge we are generally able to diagnose the cause of death. We cannot defy its inevitability but mostly we accept it. Not so the stone-age New Guinean. He does not accept the inevitability of death – to him the cause is imagined, not real. The result is he seeks revenge – ‘payback’ – for a wrong which he believes has been perpetrated against his kin and resulted in a death.
Enmities have their origins in minor problems, and like the lowly acorn which grows into a mighty tree, the little problems become ‘big troubles’ if they remain unresolved. With the primitive, there is cause and effect – the difference being that he conceives a fanciful idea of the cause and brings about an effect.
My first experience of ‘pourri pourri’ came quite unexpectedly one bright sunny morning. As I proceeded to the outside toilet – the haus pekpek – I passed Bonkora, Ghia, and Anuhti, none of whom were locals, sitting in the sun against the rear kitchen wall, laughing and joking.
A short time later, as I returned, I noticed a dramatic change in their demeanour. Gone were their laughing faces. They sat in silence, glum, crestfallen. I could not help but notice the difference. I asked, “What’s the matter with you fellows?”
“’Pourri pourri’ has been made against us,” Bonkora replied and opened his hand to disclose a small parcel made from a tanket leaf. He unrolled it to reveal three or four blackthorns. Ghia and Anuhti produced similar packages. These three were as good as dead.
“But who gave you this?”
“A man from the village of the warrior whom Karai killed,” said Bonkora.
“Where is this man now?”
“He has gone.”
I realised that the sorcerer could not have gone far because it happened such a brief time before. I sounded the alarm and the police went in pursuit. A little later they returned with a villager in custody. By this time, too, a number of interested onlookers had gathered.
“Is this the man?’ I asked.
With that I drew my revolver and pointed it at the ‘poison-maker’.
“Don’t! Don’t shoot him,” they exclaimed, but little did they know I was putting on a big act.
“If you kill him, we will die,” Bonkora added.
“What is the remedy?” I asked.
“This man who made the ‘pourri pourri’ must take this poison and put it in running water before we are free.”
The little channel running past the house was but a few steps away. The parcels were given back to the sorcerer and when we moved to the running water, he placed them one by one into it. The effect on the victims was immediate. The death sentence had been lifted and the trio relaxed and became as normal. Then I released a very scared sorcerer.
Karai was ‘my’ policeman and as I was of another kind and untouchable by ‘pourri pourri’, the ‘payback’ had been made against my servants instead.
Now I too, knew naked fear at night. Unconsciously, it had built up within me from the time the Garfukus had begun to challenge my authority, saying that it was Japan’s time and they would help them. Probably, their stalking of my people and the threat of Japanese patrols had accelerated the conditioning process.
I slept alone on the plateau with a primed hand-grenade and a loaded revolver under my pillow and my rifle beside the bed, with a round in the breech. During most nights, I would flash into wakefulness at the slightest sound. My ears would strain to capture even the softest of noises, while my memory reached desperately into my brain to identify it and associate it with its cause. I would lie there completely motionless, not wishing to create a competing sound, sweating profusely. My heart thump, thumped, until finally my ears rang with the intensity of listening and I no longer possessed the capacity to hear what was happening in the external world.
Before me would pass a vision of a native throwing a lighted stick on the grass-thatched roof of my house, followed by a Japanese hunting me down. In the end, I would find that it had been a rat responsible for disturbing me with its noise and leaving me mentally and physically drained. Night after night I lived through that dreaded experience, with no one else to share it.


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Excerpt from “Some Experiences of a New Guinea Resident Magistrate” by Captain C. A. W. Monckton ~~Massacre~~

picture-SomeExperiencesNewGuineaRM-MoncktonThen, if we take the following statement made by the only prisoner taken at the time, we have the whole history of the events which took place up to the departure of the punitive party from Goaribari on board the Merrie England.
Statement of Kemere of Dubumuba, taken prisoner at Dopima, Goaribari Island: –
“The name of the village that I was captured in is Dopima. I, however, belong to Dubumuba, a village on Baiba Bari Island. I, myself, was not present at the massacre; only the big men of the village went. I have, however, heard all about it. My father, Marawa, sent me to Dopima to get a tomahawk to build a canoe. The name of the village you camped in the first night is Turotere. The first suggestion for massacring the L.M.S. party came from Garopo, off whose village, Dopima, the Niue was anchored. Word was at once sent round that night to villages in the vicinity to come to help. It is the usual custom for people of surrounding villages, when a large boat is sighted, to congregate in one place. The following villages were implicated: Dopima, Turotere, Bai-ia, Aidio, Eheubi, Goari-ubi, Aimaha, Gweari-Bari, Ubu-Oho, Dubumuba. The next morning all the canoes went off and persuaded Messrs. Chalmers and Tomkins and party to come on shore in the whaleboat. Some of the natives remained to loot the Niue. When they got on shore Messrs. Chalmers and Tomkins and a few boys entered the long house, the rest of the boys remaining to guard the boat. These last, however, were also enticed inside the house of pretence of giving them something to eat. The signal for a general massacre was given by knocking simultaneously from behind both Messrs. Chalmers and Tomkins on the head with stone clubs. This was performed in the case of the former by Iake of Turotere, in that of the latter by Arau-u of Turotere. Kaiture, of Dopima, then stabbed Mr. Chalmers in the right side with a cassowary dagger, and then Muroroa cut off his head. Ema cut off Mr. Tomkins’ head. They both fell senseless at the first blow of the clubs. Some names of men concerned in the murder of the rest of the party are: Baibi, Adade, Emai, Utuamu, and Amuke, all of Dopima; also Wahaga and Ema, both of Turotere.
“All the heads were immediately cut off. We, however, lost one man, Gahibai, of Dopima. He was running to knock a big man [Note: This must be Naragi, chief of Ipisia] on the head, when the latter snatched a stone club from a man standing near and killed Gahibai. He (Naragi) was, however, immediately overpowered. The other boys were too small to make any resistance. In the meantime the people in canoes left at the Niue had come back after looting her of all the tomahawks, etc. This party was led by Kautiri, of Dopima. Finding the party on shore dead, it was determined to go back to the Niue and kill those on board. However, the Niue got under way, and left, so they could not accomplish their purpose. I think the crew of the Niue were frightened at the noise on shore. Then Pakara, of Aimaha, called out to all the people to come and break up the boat, which had been taken right inside the creek, it being high water. This was done, and the pieces were divided amongst people from the various villages. Pakara is the man who followed and talked to you in the Aimaha Creek for a long time. Directly the heads had been cut off the bodies, some men cut the latter up and handed the pieces over to the women to cook, which they did, mixing the flesh with sago. They were eaten the same day.
“Gebai has got Mr. Chalmers’ head at Dopima, and Mahikaka has got Mr. Tomkins’ head at Turotere. The rest of the heads are divided amongst various individuals. Anybody having a new head would naturally, on seeing strange people coming to the village, hide them away in the bush, and leave only the old skulls in the houses. The same applies to the loot from the Niue.
“As regards the skulls in the houses, those having artificial noses attached to them are of people who have died natural deaths; those that have no noses attached have been killed.”
“Taken by me C. G. MURRAY, R.M., W.D.”

Reverend James Chalmers was born in Argyleshire, Scotland on 4 August 1841, and died on Goaribari Island, Papua on 8 April 1901, aged 59 years.
Reverend Oliver F Tomkins was from England and born on 5 March 1873, and died on Goaribari Island, Papua on 8 April 1901, aged 28 years.
L.M.S. – London Missionary Society
Goaribari Island is an island of southern Papua New Guinea, which is located in Gulf Province within the Gulf of Papua.


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Excerpt from “New Guinea Recollections” by C.A.W. Monckton ~~Surprise Attack~~

picture-NewGuineaRecollections-CAWMoncktonThe Governor came to my tent.

“Monckton,” he said, “I have just seen a man, and my servant has seen him as well by a sudden flare of the fire. I have told the Commandant, but he thinks I am mistaken, as his sentries have reported nothing?”

“I am not surprised at that,” I replied. “Bruce is a soldier, new to the country, and has got his sentries posted in as plain view as those outside BuckinghamPalace. These people we are among are night fighters. Bruce’s sentries and men are all from the Western Division and unaccustomed to night fighting.”

“Do you think there is any danger?” he asked.

“I don’t know. If you really saw a man, which is highly probable, he is quite likely one of several scouts from a large body locating our position; in which case we may expect an attack shortly before dawn.”

“Why just before dawn?” queried Robinson.

“Men sleep heaviest then, and also it gives the attacker light to pursue any who might escape in the dark.”

Robinson went back to Bruce; then Bruce came to me.

“Why have you been putting the wind up His Excellency, and talking about my sentries?”

“I only replied to his questions, and I don’t like the position of your sentries,” I said.

“You know more about it than I do,” sneered Bruce, fresh from the South African War.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.

Barigi came. The Norther-Eastern detachment of my men were lying under flys, close to my tent.

“Bia went out with ten Kaili Kaili with tomahawks just after dark,” he said, “and before these bushmen would have had time to creep up and see them. He told us to fire in any direction from which a Kaili Kaili alarm came, but to aim very low. The Kaili Kaili and Bia will be safe enough, but ask the Commandant, in the event of an alarm, to order his men not to fire, but only to fall in.”

I went to the Governor, and found him sitting up talking to his private secretary, Manning; both were uneasy.

“All right,” said Robinson, when I made my request. “It shall be as you say, I am still convinced I saw that man, and Manning fancies he saw one too, but is not certain. That flickering light was puzzling to the eye.”

It rained early in the night, but about half an hour before dawn it cleared. Then we heard a bird calling, which was answered by another, and then a third.

“Those were Kaili Kaili,” whispered Barigi; “the bushmen are coming from three directions. When they mass, Bia will call to my men. Fall in kneeling and make no noise; make ready to fire low in the direction from which a Kaili Kaili calls.”

We waited; and just as the very first peep of dawn broke, there came a roar from Bia no sound from the Kaili Kaili; Bia yelled:

“Here now at the foot of the big tree!”

Then came the crack of Bia’s rifle and yells from the Kaili Kaili. Crash went a volley. Then came howls and the sound of men rushing through the jungle and forest in headlong flight. Bruce’s voice came like a bellowing bull ordering his men to fall in; his sentries in the meantime had fallen back in bewilderment into camp.

“What does it all mean?” asked the Governor.

“What it all means, sir, is this,” I said. “The man you and your servant thought you saw was a real man, also the man Manning saw. They were studying our camp. I was quite certain, so was Barigi, that these people were planning a night attack. Now the essence of a night attack is surprise, and also to suddenly throw a solid body of men on to the victims of the surprise, so they are slaughtered and struck down before they are half awake. Isolated attacks from several quarters, when some men come into action before others, are useless. The defence of the camp was left to Bia. Bruce, his force and sentries, were not taken into consideration. Bia took out the Kaili Kaili after dusk, and planted them up trees. The Kaili Kaili are mighty snarers of birds of paradise, and know their calls. Bia located the spot at which the concentration of a night attack would most probably take place, and there climbed a tree. An attacking night force does not come in a body, but assembles by twos and threes and little groups at one place. Bia’s Kaili Kaili scouts by bird calls notified the arrival of the night raiders, and when they were grouped under Bia’s tree, my men fired. The surprise party were therefore themselves surprised, and fled. None of them were killed, but some wounded, how many I don’t know.”

“Clever,” said the Governor.

“Yes.” I said. “Bia and his ten Kaili Kaili are wise men. They did it all. The only fear we had was lest the Commandant and his men might kill some of my Kaili Kaili. Hence the reason for my asking that they be forbidden to fire.”

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